PARS 3-0 Arbroath

A DOUBLE from super sub Craig Wighton helped Dunfermline return to winning ways with a comfortable success over Arbroath tonight.

The former Red Lichties loan star stepped off the bench to notch his fourth and fifth goals of the season, adding to Josh Edwards' opener early in the second half, as Athletic secured only a second win in eight games.

It was the ideal response to Friday's Scottish Cup defeat to derby rivals Raith Rovers, but it came at a cost, with three of their stars going off through injury.

The most distressing sight of those was that of Kane Ritchie-Hosler, who has had both ankle and knee surgery already this season, going down on the turf minutes after Edwards had hooked Dunfermline ahead, and was stretchered off after a seven-minute stoppage in play.

Owen Moffat, soon afterwards, then went down with what appeared to be a muscular problem, to be replaced by Michael O'Halloran, at which point Wighton was introduced for Matty Todd who, thankfully, wasn't injured.

Then, almost unbelievably, a hefty challenge on Sam Fisher saw him have to helped off the pitch, and replaced by Alex Jakubiak, as Athletic's injury problems mounted up.

It was a bittersweet night, therefore, for the Pars, who jumped up to fourth in the table, moving six points clear of their second bottom opponents, who unfortunately saw Michael McKenna stretchered off in the 15th minute of stoppage time, when the full-time whistle was blown, having played a game more.

Post-match, James McPake confirmed that Ritchie-Hosler had suffered a dislocated shoulder, and was heading to hospital, commenting: "The disappointment of the night's the injuries in the game.

"Kane's got a shoulder injury, he's away to the hospital. Sam's is an ankle, which we'll assess, and then the injuries for Arbroath as well - it's not great to see that, McKenna coming off late on the stretcher as well, so best wishes to him.

"That's definitely the negative of the night, the injuries to us, and then obviously the serious injury to the Arbroath player as well, so best wishes to all of them."

Pars boss McPake made two changes to his team from the dismal cup exit against the Rovers, with Aaron Comrie and Jakubiak making way for Ritchie-Hosler and Todd.

The Red Lichties, meanwhile, arrived on the back of their own Scottish Cup disappointment, having been knocked out of the competition by League Two Spartans on Saturday.

That game at Ainslie Park proved to be former Athletic gaffer Dick Campbell's final one in charge after a hugely successful stint at Gayfield.

He resigned from his post, having taken over in 2016 when they were in relegation trouble in League Two, and then leading them up to the Championship, and being in the running for the title in 2021/22 until the penultimate day.

The Angus club, however, went into this second bottom of the table, but only three points behind the fifth-placed Pars, having played a game fewer.

The hosts knew a win would take them into fourth place but there was little to warm those who had made their way into the ground up during the opening period.

Lewis McCann saw an early shot blocked, and Craig Slater lashed over for the visitors, in the opening exchanges, which were scrappy, to say the least.

It took 20 minutes for a shot on target - McCann obliging, after Joe Chalmers did well to win the ball back in midfield and play him through - before Moffat quickly forced another save from Derek Gaston with a crisp volley from around 20 yards.

At the other end, a McKenna free-kick that was blocked by the Pars wall presented a shooting opportunity for Slater, who dragged his effort wide, before Jay Bird forced Deniz Mehmet into a save at his near post moments later.

A free-kick awarded after Ritchie-Hosler, who tried to make things happen on the right hand side, was taken out gave McCann a chance to shoot, but his effort was deflected out for a corner by the Arbroath wall.

From the set piece, Fisher was unfortunate to glance a header over after rising well to meet it, whilst McCann had another chance when he met a Moffat cross, but sent his header wide.

However, three minutes after the restart, Dunfermline got what they, and their supporters, craved.

Ritchie-Hosler started the chain of events that led to the goal, sliding a nice ball for McCann inside the box on the right.

His shot was blocked, and as the rebound fell to Todd, he was sent sprawling to the ground, although referee, Ross Hardie, wasn't interested in a penalty award.

Moffat remained alert, though, latching on to the loose ball to shoot, which Gaston beat out, but only to Edwards, who hooked in his second goal of the campaign.

However, the home side's joy was soon tempered by an injury to Ritchie-Hosler, who went down following a challenge.

Play was stopped for seven minutes, after which he was stretchered off from the field, with Comrie coming on to replace him.

It was a sad sight, and a blow for both the player, who has had surgery on both his ankle and knee this season, and the team, and they suffered another moments later when Moffat went down off the ball.

He was replaced by O'Halloran, while Todd was taken off, not through injury, in favour of Wighton.

The two subs combined almost instantly, with Wighton slicing wide from O'Halloran's low cross, but, almost unbelievably, Dunfermline lost another player to injury when Fisher, who had been the victim of a hefty challenge, hobbled off to be replaced by Jakubiak.

The Pars, though, didn't let it affect them, and Gaston kept Arbroath in it with a double save.

He firstly blocked from McCann, after Jakubiak neatly cushioned a centre from O'Halloran, who embarked on a brilliant run on the right, into his path, before Wighton was denied on the rebound by the keeper.

However, he perhaps should have done better when Athletic went 2-0 up.

Comrie was the creator, sending in a cross that Edwards did well to meet with a header, which evaded the grasp of Gaston, allowing Wighton to bundle in from close range for his fourth of the campaign.

He almost had another, having an effort blocked at the near post after a good run into the box, and pick out, by Jakubiak, whilst O'Halloran and Wighton were unfortunate not to add a third.

However, in the 90th minute, Dunfermline did add gloss to the scoreline when Wighton grabbed his second, and took his season's tally to five.

A throw-in was jumped for, and missed, by a Lichties defender, allowing McCann to run in on goal and, after Gaston couldn't hold his shot, substitute Wighton poked in to seal three points and send the Pars fourth in the table.

On the game itself, McPake added: "Back to winning ways. It's three points. In the first half, it was a stuffy game. I know we had a lot of the ball, top end of the pitch, as a team, we were a bit static. We never asked enough questions of them, although we had real control in the game. Second half, as a team, from start I thought our movement was better, our runs in behind were better, and decisions were better.

"It was a deserved three points. We could've had more goals but, to get three points in any game in this league, we're delighted, and it gets us back to winning ways."

Pars: Mehmet, Ritchie-Hosler (Comrie 58), Fisher (Jakubiak 66), Hamilton, Otoo, Edwards, Chalmers, Allan, Moffat (O'Halloran 63), Todd (Wighton 63), McCann.

Subs not used: Fenton, Sharp, Little.

Goals: Edwards (48), Wighton (73, 90).

Booked: O'Halloran (81).

Arbroath: Gaston, Steele, Hamilton, O'Brien, Stewart, Slater, Gold (Lyon 30), McKenna, Jacobs, Hylton (Dunnwald-Turan 82), Bird (Little 74).

Subs not used: Stowe, Norey, Adams.

Booked: O'Brien (38).

Referee: Ross Hardie.

Attendance: 3,226.